Georgia Supreme Court: Car Accident Victim’s Failure to Wear Seatbelt Deemed not Relevant in Criminal Cases
GEORGIA – According to an online news report at law.com, the Georgia Supreme Court reinstated hit-and-run as well as vehicular homicide charges against a defendant. This is due to the fact that the court’s opinion affirmed the lower court’s decision to bar evidence regarding a passenger’s failure to wear a seat belt.*
The opinion, however, did not agree with the lower court judge that Georgia “disallowing such evidence in civil cases necessarily supported the order.”
The judged did not decide that admitting evidence that a crash victim was not wearing their seat belt at the time of the accident was unconstitutional. Rather, they ruled, in their case of first impression, that the deceased not wearing a seat belt was irrelevant in determining the victim’s proximate cause of death.
“To be sure, such evidence may well be relevant in a civil case to the issue of contributory negligence … assumption of risk, or apportionment of damages.” But “the same is not true of issues of causation in a criminal case,” the judge said.
The lawyer for the defendant claimed that the seat belt law’s exclusion of evidence that was “highly relevant” evidence of causation violated his client’s right to assert a defense that was complete.
The decision was unanimous in providing that there was no reason to address the constitutional challenge given that a failure to wear a seat belt “does not independently cause death or injury.”
Attorneys from the Cobb County district attorney’s office prosecuted the case. Attorney for the defendant said that the Supreme Court’s ruling that the lack of a seat belt is irrelevant in criminal cases is absolutely “absurd.” Two other individuals in the vehicle were wearing seat belts and were able to avoid being injured.
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Source:https://www.law.com/dailyreportonline/2019/07/01/justices-car-crash-victims-failure-to-wear-seat-belt-not-relevant-in-criminal-cases/ and https://images.law.com/contrib/content/uploads/documents/404/32999/GSC-State-v.-Mondor-opinion.pdf